Summary of the Seven Themes, Key Findings and Recommendations from the “BC Rural Education Report”, March 2017

Our trustee representative, Sharel Warrington, presented this summary at our DPAC meeting last night, and gave us permission to post it on our website.

The full report can be accessed here: http://sd57dpac.ca/2018/03/bc-rural-report-education-published/

 

Summary of the Seven Themes, Key Findings and Recommendations from the “BC Rural Education Report”, March 2017

Prepared by Trustee Sharel Warrington

for

District Parent Advisory Council Meeting April 9th 2018

 

Theme:  Funding Opportunities and School Closures

BC Rural Education Report Key Findings:

“There is a lack of understanding amongst stakeholder of how the k-12 public sector funding allocation system and governance structure work which impacts the relationship between boards of education and stakeholders.”

“Stable and predictable funding is critical to education.  Although the current funding model provides supplements for rural school districts, funding based primarily on enrolment does not reflect the higher costs of delivering comparable programs and services in low enrolment and remote environments.”

Recommendations:

  • Undertake a comprehensive review of the k-12 sector funding allocation system to better reflect the operational and educational realities of operating schools in rural and remote communities
  • Continue to provide targeted funding outside of regular operating grants to address unique rural issues such as transportation and housing
  • Help boards of Education to keep schools open where it makes educational sense to do so and where communities may be adversely impacted by closure

Theme: Access to Quality Educational Programs

BC Rural Education Report Key Findings:

“Statistical achievement data confirms there is a gap between the educational outcomes of rural and urban students. The gap is even larger for rural Aboriginal students.”

 

“Educational programs that tap into the local culture and/or economy of the region help foster strong connections between students and their rural communities.”

 

“Rural students do not have the same level of access to educational programs and extra-curricular activities as their urban counterparts.”

 

“There are many innovative ways to deliver quality educational programs, in addition to brick-and-mortar facilities, including virtual, facilitated and experiential options.”

 

“Innovative programming and solutions to educational challenges are being implemented in schools across the province; however, the effectiveness of these programs and solutions is not being explored systematically and successes are not being shared widely.”

 

“Teaching in a multi-grade classroom environment can be difficult; many teachers in rural and remote schools are new, and they often have limited access to classroom support.”

 

“Lack of access to specialist services, long travel times, and high costs in some rural schools and communities are contributing to long wait times for special needs assessments and, therefore, delays in receiving services.”

 

“Transitioning to larger communities, whether for work or further education, is difficult for rural students.’

Recommendations:

  • Develop targeted strategies to close the urban-rural gap in educational outcomes for students in collaboration with Boards of Education
  • Support rural schools to build on local strengths, develop innovative programming tailored to the surrounding community and share promising practices provincially
  • Ensure equitable access to educational programs, services and extra-curricular activities for students and professional learning opportunities for staff regardless of where they live.
  • Ensure that rural educators and administrators are well-supported to provide quality educational programming within complex learning environments ( i.e. multi-grade classrooms
  • Increase support to students to ensure that they are prepared for post-secondary, career and life transitions within and outside of their rural community
  • Improve access to technological tools, software and supports that encourages innovative educational programming, including opportunities to collaborate between schools and school districts across the province

Theme: State of School Facilities

BC Rural Education Report Key Findings:

Use it or lose it’ approach to facility maintenance funding makes it difficult for rural school district to undertake larger-scale maintenance projects, leading to higher deferred maintenance costs and facility deterioration.”

 

“Rural school districts have limited funding options to help them ‘right size’ their school facilities in the context of enrolment decline.”

 

“Specialty program space and equipment, such as shop/trades, requires upgrading in order to adequately prepare students for the workforce.”

 

“Technology and connectivity are important in delivering educational programs and engaging with parents; however, there are many schools in the province reporting limited or no access to new technologies and/or the internet.”

Recommendations:

  • Establish more flexible capital funding criteria to allow for: greater optimization of space; extend the useful life of facilities; ensure access to state of the art equipment and enhance community use of rural school space
  • Ensure that all rural schools have a minimum level of access to technological infrastructure and internet connectivity to support 21st century learning and that this access keeps pace with technological advances

Theme:  Community Use of School Facilities

BC Rural Education Report Key Findings:

“Community groups and the public are experiencing barriers to using school facilities in some communities – owing to factors such as insurance costs and user fees.”

 

“Boards of Education in rural school districts do not always have the budget to fund initiatives outside of their core educational mandate in support of community programming.”

 

Recommendations:

  • Work with Boards of Education to streamline and improve community group access to school facilities for non-educational purposes
  • Improve cross-government coordination in order to integrate public services/supports (e.g. counselors, mental health workers, social workers) within rural schools for the benefit of both students and the broader community

Theme: Staffing and Human Resources

BC Rural Education Report Key Findings:

“Rural school districts are experiencing great difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified staff for educational, administrative, and operational positions.”

 

Recommendations:

  • Work with rural school districts to identify their staffing needs and develop local action plans to ensure that their needs are met
  • Implement a coordinated strategic recruitment program to attract qualified education sector professionals to rural schools
  • Offer incentives to staff in rural school districts to reduce turnover and increase stability for students in the classroom

Theme:  Stakeholder Engagement

BC Rural Education Report Key Findings:

“Public reporting and stakeholder engagement practices by Boards of Education vary widely across the province. A number of stakeholders expressed frustration with the level of information being provided, the perceived lack of planning, as well as with coordination between public sector organizations.”

 

Recommendations:

  • Encourage local/regional governments and Boards of Education to work together for the benefit of their communities (e.g. joint facilities planning, community plans programs/services, etc.), and report out publicly on outcomes.
  • Strengthen public reporting from Boards of Education to their stakeholders, including Strategic Plans, Facilities Plans, and regular financial updates.

 

Theme: Partnerships and Shared Services

BC Rural Education Report Key Findings

“Rural school districts often have limited administrative capacity and subject matter expertise compared to their urban counter parts (i.e. Human Resource capacity/expertise, Information Technology Support, long-range facilities planning, etc.).”

“A great deal of cooperation and coordination is happening across rural and remote school districts in response to educational and operational capacity issues; however, these practices are not being shared widely across the province.”

“There is a significant interest in exploring further shared service initiatives between school districts and across other sectors where possible.”

Recommendations:

  • Continue to address capacity issues in rural school districts and find efficiencies for the benefit of rural school districts by establishing new and innovative shared services initiatives, including partnerships outside of the K-12 public sector where feasible.
  • Facilitate a conversation between school districts and external technological partners to enhance facilities, equipment and learning opportunities in rural education across B.C.

 

 

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